Three Ways to Make the Most of Your Bellringers

Bellringers, warm-ups, do-nows…whatever you call them, they’re not just a classroom management tactic. Click through to find out three ways I make the most of these five-minute gems in my classroom.

Bellringers, Do-Nows, Warm-Ups...whatever you call them, don't skip them.

Used correctly, they can set the tone for your entire class. These five minute intro activities are traditionally used to get students focused and to give us time to take attendance, check homework, and various other administrative tasks.

When I first started teaching, I scrambled each morning to make sure I had one for each of my classes. They were an afterthought. A classroom management strategy to give us routine. Now, when I design a unit, I build them in. I consider each one carefully. They have become an integral part of each of my lessons.

I create a PowerPoint Presentation for each of my units that is specifically for the warm-up. I select a layout that divides the slide into two parts. On one side, I type the daily agenda, and on the other, I type the bellringer.

There are three distinct ways that I use the lowly warm-up to get the biggest impact.

Three Ways to Make the Most of Your Bellringers

1. Bellringer as a Hook

This is my favorite way to use the warm-up. I like it because I teach history, and in a standards-based classroom, there are so many amazing things that we simply don't have time to discuss. I might bring in a bizarre fact or an unusual image or a "what if" scenario. I love to follow these with a short video.

An example is when we are studying The Enlightenment and Revolutions. We are discussing major political changes in Europe and the Americas, but I want the students to understand that there were cultural changes that they can directly relate to, as well. Here is a sample bellringer that does that succinctly and fosters engagement in the lesson that follows:
Bellringers, warm-ups, do-nows…whatever you call them, they’re not just a classroom management tactic. Click through to find out three ways I make the most of these five-minute gems in my classroom.

Bellringers, warm-ups, do-nows…whatever you call them, they’re not just a classroom management tactic. Click through to find out three ways I make the most of these five-minute gems in my classroom.


In a very short amount of time, students have read and discussed a primary source, viewed a minuet, viewed a waltz, looked at changing fashion, and related it back to their lives. They have also seen that social change extends beyond politics and that there will always be opponents.

2. Bellringer as a Review

Sometimes I'll bring in a test-prep question for this followed by a video explainer. But some of the most effective reviews come from asking students to recall what they know, make lists, and categorize.

For an initial vocabulary review, I might ask students to list all of their vocabulary words that they can recall without looking at the word wall. The next time we do it, I might have them retrieve the words again from memory, but this time, place them in categories. This type of retrieval practice is a simple, yet highly effective way to study. Cult of Pedagogy has an excellent podcast about the power of retrieval practice

Another effective form of quick review is to have students generate three questions about the previous day's lesson. To encourage higher-level questioning, I start them out with question stems. This is a list of question stems for the six levels of questioning. Then I have students answer the questions they generated with their group.

3. Bellringer as a Separate Curriculum

Bellringers, warm-ups, do-nows…whatever you call them, they’re not just a classroom management tactic. Click through to find out three ways I make the most of these five-minute gems in my classroom.By "Separate Curriculum," I mean a time to teach those things that students need to know, like writing, grammar, or geography, but that don't quite fit into your curriculum. 

A great way to practice writing is by doing it. Journaling can involve one question a day and a timer. Students have five minutes to write. Then discuss answers as a class. Here is a list of prompts from The New York Times.

A pet project of mine is teaching writing through deliberate practice (I call it Writing Blocks). For that, I use sentence imitation (mentor sentences). This method works really well. I will eventually finish the entire year, but I keep getting new preps thrown my way....

Daily Grammar has a ton of free resources you can use to open a class with grammar practice.

For Geography, I like to tackle the world by region. When I've done this, it's looked something like this:

Monday: Label a blank map of that region.
Tuesday: Cultural facts from that region.
Wednesday: Current events from that region.
Thursday: Defining historical events from that region.
Friday: Music from that region.

National Geographic has some good resources for incorporating geography into your classroom.

How do you use warm-ups in your classroom? Leave a comment and let me know!


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